Informal Dining: A Family Affair in Fair Lawn

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By bidadmin June 9, 2016 10:05

Informal Dining: A Family Affair in Fair Lawn

Here’s how Eddie Tisi makes the uncompromising Italian hero called the Soprano:

He starts with crusty 10-inch-long semolina rolls from Elio’s in Jersey City. He slices them about two-thirds of the way down, then pulls some of the fluffy bread out of the top. “You have to gut the bread,” he says, so that it doesn’t get in the way of the crusty outside snugly cradling the pile of imported meats.

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He cuts those meats — in this case ham, prosciutto and the spiced pork known as capicola — to order. He adds thick slabs of super-sharp hard provolone that give the sandwich distinctive bite, and a smattering of hot peppers for some heat.

The result: perfection for $8.50, at least for those of us seeking sandwiches that exhilarate our taste buds, not just kill our hunger. The Soprano has become the top seller at Tisi’s takeout-only deli, A Family Affair, in Fair Lawn. This meticulous sandwich construction has given Tisi a nasty case of tennis elbow over two decades, but it’s also earned him a rabid following of customers who can’t find another Italian hero that matches up.

And that may include me now that I’ve tried the Soprano, also known as No. 25 – Eddie and his parents, Eddie Sr. and Angela, ask that you order by number. Those with slightly tamer tastes can try the Godfather (No. 6), which swaps out prosciutto for the Italian salami known as soppressata and adds milder provolone and red peppers ($8.50).

Tisi, 46, a graduate of what was then known as the New York Restaurant School, worked in restaurant kitchens for a while — the long-shuttered fine-dining icon Montrachet in Tribeca was one — but decided to open A Family Affair out of a tiny storefront on Broadway in 1995. “I didn’t want to work for somebody,” he says, and while he would love to work in a restaurant, he can’t pass up the opportunity to spend late afternoons and evenings with his two teenagers. “I want to see my kid play baseball,” he says.

He and his parents make an unusually welcoming team that pores over every order. They buy meats from stores in the famous Arthur Avenue Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, and offer those shops’ wonderful pepper “shooters” stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella ($9.99 a pound).

But they make a number of great offerings themselves, such as a potato salad that looks bland but has a wonderfully oniony tang ($3.99 a pound). Huge, cheesy rice balls ($4.95 each) and big, soft, fragrant meatballs ($7.50 in a No. 12 hero) show off the Tisis’ prowess for Italian-American home cooking in catering and daily specials. One of my favorite items, a house-made spinach and feta pastry ($2.95), wasn’t exactly Italian, but could give versions of the Greek spanakopita some serious competition.

I was less of a fan of my turkey club panini — its outside was toasty warm, but the meat inside was too cold ($7.95) — and the dry, breaded chicken chunks in one of the deli’s popular breaded chicken salads, which had beautiful tomatoes and red onion ($6.99 a pound). Those breaded chicken cutlets taste fresher in a No. 20 hero with mozzarella ($7.95). And do not miss two house-made desserts — a coffee-scented tiramisù that’s fresher and creamier than what’s served at many fancy restaurants ($3 for one serving) and, even better, a rice pudding that makes the humble dessert feel lavish ($5.99 a pound).

Email: ung@northjersey.com |Twitter: @elisaung

Read the full article on NorthJersey.com

bidadmin
By bidadmin June 9, 2016 10:05